Andre Villas-Boas’ hopes of getting one over on former employers Chelsea were dashed as the Premier League leaders extended their unbeaten run to eight games with victory in a captivating contest at White Hart Lane.
The Tottenham boss was facing the Blues for the first time since he was sacked by owner Roman Abramovich in March with that encounter dominating the column inches prior to kick off.
Warm hugs and handshakes greeted Villas-Boas on approach to the Chelsea bench but there was no love lost on the field as two players that he brought to Stamford Bridge during his nine-month stay that compounded a miserable afternoon.
William Gallas wasted an early chance from Gylfi Sigurdsson’s free kick for the hosts before Gary Cahill, signed by Villas-Boas in Janaury, thumped home an unstoppable volley from Eden Hazard’s corner to give Chelsea the lead after 17 minutes.
Tottenham sought an instant reply and Jermaine Defoe was denied by a scrambling save from Petr Cech, while Juan Mata blazed over at the other end after his first effort parried away by Brad Friedel. Villas-Boas urged his side to up the tempo after the break and his words clearly had a marked effect as Gallas glanced home from a corner before Defoe instinctively turned home Aaron Lennon’s cross-shot.
But Chelsea are made of sterner stuff these days and Mata, another Villas-Boas buy, brought his side level in the 66th minute with a composed finish from the edge of the area before snatching the lead three minutes later. A superb first time ball from Hazard released the Spaniard in behind the Spurs defence and he cooly clipped the ball past Brad Friedel.
And fittingly Mata played a crucial role in wrapping up the victory, rolling the ball across for substitute Daniel Sturridge to tap home in injury time.